Lisa McDonald is the creative brain behind Grace Bijoux, a Gold Coast-based designer and manufacturer of crafted jewellery. Lisa always had an interest in fashion and used to be the girl at school who made all of the friendship bracelets. When her second child was ready to go to Kindy, she was dreading going back to work. It was then that Lisa's husband encouraged her to do something she was passionate about.
She went and completed a silver smith course and loved it, and from there started designing a few pieces and looked for what was not readily available. At the time, Lisa started making headpieces and at her first local market she sold them all. There came the inspiration to keep creating things that were a little different. From there, Grace Bijoux grew rapidly.
Back then it was just Lisa working from her kitchen bench making everything. Now she has an amazing home studio and 2 staff members working for her 5 days a week - "We are a great team and they contribute so much to the passion and success of Grace Bijoux".
Did you always know you wanted to be in the fashion industry in some way or was this an idea that stuck?
I have always loved fashion, but did not necessarily think I would work in the industry. I can't sew to save my life but I am super crafty and find jewellery so fun. It's such a good way to make your outfit unique and change it up each time. I feel very lucky that people have loved my designs and this has allowed me to grow the business.
Your designs have been worn by the likes of Sydney Fashion Blogger, Chanel Iman, Tash Oakley and Shanina Shaik. Did you ever foresee this type of success for Grace Bijoux?
No, not at all. It's all about passion when I create and I just wanted to make things and pray that I didn't have to go back to my old job! I started making pieces I wanted and could not find. I still make so many things just because I want it!
I actually never approached any of the celebrities we have been featured on. It's been so amazing to think that they all found me and wanted my designs.
Your chain bras are the ultimate festival must-have. Do you find you are taking a more festival-driven approach to the brand? Was that your intention?
We have been huge in the festival scene and as I spent a lot of my youth at festivals and still go now when I can, I love that they love me! The bras really took off in that area and I do design with that in mind. However, we have done a few bridal ranges and some finer ranges. I will continue to create for all lovers of jewellery, but festival is my favourite as I can be so outrageous in the designs and that's really fun!
What are your top 3 pieces from Grace Bijoux and why?
There have been different ones over time but it's still our first ever bralette the Delta (although, some months Anouk wins!). It's such a great staple piece and with its cut-out areas, it has just enough 'cheeky' to it, to make it very appealing.
Also, our Sahara body chain. We can never have enough in stock. It has great layers and makes any outfit super unique when worn under or over it. When I started on the mesh designs, they went crazy (with customers) and still do. We were the first to revive mesh from the '70s and I love designing with it as it has such a vintage vibe to it.
What’s an average day like for you?
Mostly, I start early and go for a walk with my hubby and dog. Then I get the kids to school. My staff start early so they're already working when I get back. The girls really do run the show well. We have great systems in place and they are super organised when it comes to processing and getting the orders ready day-to-day. I work with the girls in the studio and make us all lunch each day. We finish just before school finishes so I have time with my kids.
My days are generally a mix of developing and managing wholesale, sourcing and design, managing any issues, and working closely with my overseas production team. The management part of the business is something I never anticipated, it's a lot of work! I make sure I find time to get my passion on and design or create as much as I can. It's definitely my favourite job.
Where do you find the inspiration to dream up such unique pieces?
One part of something I have seen will set me off and I cannot get over it! Like a vintage outfit, a pair of quirky shoes or a memory of something I saw years ago. I then literally dream and wake up with eccentric ideas that I try to mold into workable designs.
I'm very inspired by the '70s and '80s. I get super inspired when I travel. I love seeing those super cool grandma's who are just so coordinated and stylish. I find inspiration in many people - it's so about the way you wear it, not what it is.
Our latest collection was inspired by some earrings I had in the '80s that I threw out! They were these rainbow lightning bolts. I remember they made me feel super cool. So I made a perspex lighting bolt in a new colour, then applied my little bit of my crazy to it, mixing in up other pieces so it's all new and fresh.
I keep looking at what body parts I can do things with in a new way.
How has the use of Instagram grown and impacted your business? Have you received any negativity with such cheeky designs? If so, how do you deal with it?
Instagram has been a very loving platform to me. We grew very quickly on Instagram and still are. Instagram also allowed us to get global quickly. My first website sale ever was to the USA. It's more focused on pictures and the creative side, and no matter where you are from or what language you speak, pictures say so much more.
The impact on our business was fantastic! We were stocked in around 7 countries in the first 2 years. My first wholesale order came from the USA with a massive online retailer - I couldn't believe it. If you have a business where you sell internationally, Instagram is a must.
I don't get a lot of negativity at all, people genuinely seem to like the cheeky designs. If I do get someone who is way out of order or rude, I just block them instantly. I won't tolerate it and I'm horrified people actually do it.
What advice would you give to your younger self? And what tips can you give to Gold Coasters on starting a business?
Advice for my younger self is take a few risks with business, if you can organically grow it and pay the bills! I started doing this later in life after kids and I can't imagine where we would be if I started 10 years earlier.
As for the Gold Coasters who are starting out, really, really love what you do. Once you start doing the things you are really passionate about and it turns into a business, there is so much more work that is not as fun as your passion but you have to do it!
We have an amazingly creative, talented community on the GC. I feel lucky that I was able to meet and exchange ideas with these people when I started out at The Village Markets. Many of these creative people are now my very good friends. It's so valuable to have relationships with like-minded people who inspire and encourage you.
If you hadn’t started Grace Bijoux, what would you be doing?
Back in a corporate IT sales role that I don't love.
Where is your favourite place to shop on the Gold Coast?
The Freedom State in Burleigh has my favourite brands.
Where’s your go-to spot on the Gold Coast?
Wavebreak Island, we love boating and it's the best Sunday out with my family. Cha Cha in Broadbeach has the most amazing food ever.
What can we expect from Grace Bijoux in the next 2 years?
Lots more crazy designs plus working in some pieces that are more suitable for everyday but are still unique. I am also working with materials other than chain so watch this space!
I have worked with some epic people like The Naked Tiger on collaborations. There are a lot more in the works and some new collaborations that we are really excited about.
If you could have anyone wear your designs, who would it be?
Rihanna, she rocks those looks like nobody else!